What follows is an excerpt from a paper my daughter, Jessica Joy Brigante, wrote while at Seminary.
I consider prayer to be a simple word to describe communication with God. But communication is complicated and multi-faceted.
With strangers and acquaintances, I communicate with small talk – simple words and phrases, nothing deep.
With close friends, there is emotion, a deeper sharing of the heart, and a different collection of words with various meanings, as well as body language that communicates meaning. There might be emails, letters, gifts, phone calls, hugs, etc.
With my family, there is a history of communication. There are inside jokes that reference memories in a way no one else would understand.
With my husband, my intimate partner, all of these forms of communication are used, and more. We communicate with a love language of sounds that we don’t share with others. Our movements mean more to each other than others might notice. We know each other’s thoughts, at times. We communicate in myriad ways.
Communication with God is even more complex. Prayer is not just words and formulas for how to ask for what I want. Prayer is a language of the heart and of the soul even more than a language of the mind and body. It encompasses all aforementioned forms of communication, and beyond. And God communicates with humans in infinite ways: through thoughts; through feelings of comfort, peace, and joy; through music, poetry, and various art forms; through natural phenomena, weather, and beauty; through prophecy; through biblical texts, and the writings of ancient and contemporary people; through the actions of others; through logic and understanding; through abstract ideas… the list could go on.
Prayer is a matter of lifestyle and personality, of relationship and love. Formulas and formats may be a starting place, but they cannot begin to reach the depths or facets of a life in relationship with God.